Bumper autumn for birds at Blakeney

Wardens at one of Norfolk's bird-watching hotspots have reported a bumper year for sightings of migrant species.

A number of rare species have been spotted at Blakeney Point, Norfolk's oldest nature reserve, thanks to a combination of favourable weather conditions this spring and autumn.

Birds spotted have included an alder or willow flycatcher and several varieties of warbler: the radde's, yellow-browed, sub-Alpine, marsh, icterine, barred and booted.

The flycatcher, native to the United States and Canada, was blown 3,000 miles off course and attracted hundreds of twitchers after it touched down at the Point last month.

Bluethroats and wrynecks have also been sighted, along with a trumpeter finch, short-toed lark, red-backed shrike, nightingale, nightjar, little owl, nightingales, black guillemot and even two Chilean flamingos.

Large numbers of common migrants, including robins, song-thrushes, chiff-chaffs and siskins have also visited the reserve.

'It's been superb. Weather conditions have been ideal for a lot of the autumn,' said National Trust coastal warden Eddie Stubbings, who lives on the Point from April to October.

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'Last year we had lots of rarities but we didn't have any big falls where the wind was right for a large number of birds to land.

'At the moment there are hundreds of thrushes and robins around. We've had incredible falls of chiff-chaffs –I've counted 127 in a day.'

In the autumn five billion birds are moving out of northern Europe and heading down to wintering quarters in south, central and eastern Africa.

An area of high pressure over Scandinavia and Russia combined with a depression over France are the ideal conditions to create an easterly airflow that forces migrant birds over the North Sea and on to the Point.

The three-and-a-half mile long sand and shingle spit is the first land that the exhausted birds see, and they typically stop for a few days to feed, rest and recover before heading south to warmer climes.

'A lot of the birds are in a poor condition when they get here and raptors wait to pick them off. I watched a merlin chase a robin that had just crossed the North Sea. It followed it for about five minutes then disappeared over a dune,' said Mr Stubbings.

David Wood, the National Trust's head warden for the Norfolk Coast, said: 'I have been around here for 10 years and it's one of the best in terms of migration that I can remember.

'It adds a bit to the job. I enjoy the place all the time but if you get really interesting wildlife spectacles it makes it all worthwhile. It makes you remember why you decided to get into conservation work in the first place.'

It is likely more migrants will arrive over the next fortnight or so.

'There's always the chance you might see something never seen in Norfolk before, and that's what keeps people coming.'

A quarter of a million people visit Blakeney National Nature Reserve a year. Mr Wood said it was important visitors took care not to disturb the birds.